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"THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER'S WAR"
(2016) (Chris Hemsworth, Emily Blunt) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Fantasy Action/Drama: A huntsman tries to find Snow White's missing magic mirror before an evil ice queen gets her hands on it.
PLOT:
Once upon a time, an evil queen, Ravenna (CHARLIZE THERON) ruled the lands, helped and guided by a magic mirror. Her sister, Freya (EMILY BLUNT), had no special powers like her sibling. But that all changed when the father of her child killed their baby, causing Freya to transform into the Ice Queen, kill that man, and then begin her reign of terror.

Beyond killing others to control her part of the world, that also included taking in the orphaned children of those she had killed, and training them to become future warriors for her army. The only rule was that love was forbidden, something that two of her now young adult soldiers, Eric (CHRIS HEMSWORTH), and Sara (JESSICA CHASTAIN), eventually broke. Confronted by Freya's soldiers, Eric watched Sara be killed, only to be knocked out and thrown into a river.

Seven years later, Eric is a Huntsman who previously helped Snow White defeat Ravenna. But the evil mirror has been adversely affecting Snow White, so she had it sent away, although both it and those transporting it have since disappeared. When he realizes Freya has been spying on him from afar and now knows the mirror could be hers for the taking, Eric sets out to find it, accompanied by dwarf siblings Nion (NICK FROST) and Gryff (ROB BRYDON).

They're eventually joined by two other dwarves, Mrs. Bromwyn (SHERIDAN SMITH) and Doreena (ALEXANDRA ROACH), and face various perils and surprises as they attempt to find the mirror before Freya does.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, what's the most memorable movie of all? The answer, of course, depends on the viewer and what interests them, how many times they've seen certain ones and, most obviously, the signature characters and moments that individually or collectively make a film stick in one's head.

For me, I can name a bunch of contenders, but choosing a number one usually depends on the day, how I feel, and which of those films has been viewed most recently. That said, I can say without any pause or doubt that "Snow White and the Huntsman" isn't anywhere near being on that list.

While I gave the flick a passing score, I have to admit I didn't recall a thing about it before looking back to make sure I actually saw and reviewed the 2012 release. Even after reading the plot summary and my take on the film, I honestly don't remember seeing it. Could that be the work of a rival studio putting some sort of memory fog smell on me?

Perhaps it's just too many laps around the sun or too many movies vying for attention in my brain. Then again, that updated take on the old Snow White tale simply could have been so unmemorable that it went in and out without leaving any trace of having passed through my eyes and ears.

Whatever the case, we now have a part prequel, part sequel that could likely have the same memory lapse fate befall it. For better or worse, half of the titular characters of the first film are mostly only referenced (there's also a brief and partial glimpse of good ol' Snow) in "The Huntsman: Winter's War," reportedly due to an alleged affair between the first film's director and its star, Kristen Stewart, neither of which return for duty here.

Instead, the direction is handed off to Cedric Nicolas-Troyan who's crafted an occasionally engaging fantasy action pic from Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin's screenplay, but it's one that never pops off the screen to any noticeable or, yes, memorable degree. The tale begins with a narrator filling in the blanks for the forgetful viewers, bringing everyone up to speed before heading into the prequel part where the evil stepmother queen Ravenna (a returning Charlize Theron) is behind a family tragedy in order to kick-start the magic powers of her subordinate little sister, Freya (Emily Blunt).

That ends up turning her all Elsa and she goes off to live in her own ice castle. Yet, rather than live alone like that "Frozen" character, she builds an army to conquer and kill others and then take in the resultant orphans and raise and train them as future warriors. The only rule is that love is forbidden. Naturally, that's broken by Eric (a returning Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (new to the fold Jessica Chastain), and when Freya's ice owl spies the two taking a cozy hot spring bath together, she splits up the union, with Eric being lead to believe his beloved has been murdered.

Flash forward seven years and after the events of the first film, and Eric learns that the magic mirror has been troubling Snow White so much that she's sent it away. Alas, both it and those accompanying it have gone missing, and Eric worries what might happen should the Ice Queen get her hands on it.

He then sets out, accompanied by two male dwarves (Nick Frost and Rob Brydon) and two female ones (Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach), to find it first, with Chastain's character showing up to complicate matters. They have some run-ins with special effects generated characters, while there are some battles, some presumed treachery and so on until the big, climactic showdown.

I have no idea if I'll remember any of that after another four years have passed, but the film isn't a train wreck as some action is decently handled and there's certainly plenty of star wattage to keep the flick's engagement factor lit. Nonetheless, all of it left me with nothing more than a "meh" reaction as filtered through a yawn and some head-scratching about whether I actually saw the first pic or not. By the time "Captain America: Civil War" arrives in a few weeks, I imagine most everyone will have forgotten about "The Huntsman: Winter's War," and I don't need a magic mirror to make that prediction. The film rates as a 4.5 out of 10.




Reviewed April 19, 2016 / Posted April 22, 2016


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